Poland becomes EU newcomers’ major warrior against world poverty and hunger. No, really!
Two announcements surprised me last week, and I am not entirely sure why I am surprised. But I am.
The Polish government has written off Nicaraguan debt; and Polish aid to the World Food Program in 2006 was equal to the total amount it gave in the five previous years. China news agency:
Poland’s donations [to the WFP] hit a new high in 2006 – at US$1.2 million for WFP operations in six countries. The total amount for this “breakthrough year” was just short of the sum of contributions (US$1.4 million) given by Poland to WFP during the first five years of this millennium.
“Poland is the most generous of its fellow new European Union Member States,” said John Powell, WFP’s Deputy Executive Director for Fundraising and Communications, speaking at a press conference hosted for WFP by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Warsaw.
“At last week’s meeting in Cyprus, Poland was at the forefront of EU colleagues in reaffirming their commitment to halve poverty and hunger by 2015 - the number one Millennium Development Goal.”
The main recipients of the Polish government’s generosity are:
Georgia (US$300,000); Afghanistan (US$200,000); the Democratic Republic of Congo (US$200,000); Tanzania (US$200,000 – divided equally between emergency and development); Angola (US$200,000) and Ethiopia (US$100,000)….
Not massive amounts of money, but positively bountiful compared with the Scrooge-like philanthropy of previous Polish governments.
The main beneficiaries appear to be where Poland has troops: places like Afghanistan and the Congo. And Warsaw waved much of Iraq’s debt to Poland some time ago (though expected lots back in the form of oil deposits).
The Polish Bono-like behavior is all to do with the before mentioned UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which governments signed up last year to ‘half the amount of world poverty’ by 2015.
Sounds an ambitious aim, but isn’t. It just means getting half the world’s poor’s income over one dollar day.
When Bono et al announced the ‘Make Poverty History’ campaign, which ‘dropping the debt’ is part of, they were lying. The campaign will not make poverty history.
Even if the goals of this initiative are met then millions and millions are still going to be living below or just above a one dollar a day income. Millions and millions are still going to be living in poverty. Is that the best we can do?
Kaczynskis join the Sandinistas?
But Warsaw is not finished in its development aid give-away bonanza, just yet. Last week the foreign ministry announced that it would be ‘dropping the debt’ - white wrist band, Bono style - to …Nicaragua!! Reuters:
Nicaragua and Poland signed an agreement on Friday to write off 30.6 million U.S. dollars of the 1980s debt that was borrowed by the first government of incumbent President Daniel Ortega.
...The forgiven debt includes 20 million dollars of Central Bank debt and 10 million incurred by the Finance Ministry.
The debt was originally part of two credit lines signed by Poland in 1984 and 1987 to sell crop spraying aircraft, water pumps, galvanized zinc laminate, tires, steel, construction joints, motors and spare parts.
The Polish communist government gave out the loans during a period when the Nicaraguan economy was in freefall, during and after the Sandinista/Contra war and venomous US sanctions. For instance, inflation in 1988 reached 14,000 percent!
Sandinista chief Daniel Ortega was seen as a 1980s Che Guevara in those days, a bit like Chavez is today, except without all the oil.
I remember going to a Clash gig at the time of the Sandinistas album, and Nicaragua was like some kind of Central American Spanish civil war for the Left back then.
So Communist Poland helping the anti-US Sandinistas was no big surprise (although the 1980s economy in Poland was almost as bad as Nicaragua’s in many ways - so how Warsaw could cough up even a couple of groszy is a mystery).
What’s strange is that the present de-communizing Polish government should write off the debt of a Nicaraguan government headed by none other than …Daniel Ortega, who got re-elected president late last year.
I wonder if the Kaczynskis have told Washington about this?
Well, whatever next? Lech Kaczynski appears at a press conference confessing that he is a secret Clash and U2 fan, while Jaroslaw sits bashfully beside him wearing a beret, jungle combats and smoking a Havana cigar?